HSJ’s round-up of the day’s must read stories

The next health secretary? 

In his latest leader column, HSJ editor Alastair McLellan ponders whether Jeremy Hunt’s long stint as health secretary could come to an end after the election.

He says the hand of cabinet office minister Ben Gummer can clearly be seen in the strong message around NHS “accountability” in the Tory manifesto, as well as in the calls for new consultant and dentistry contracts.

The former health minister was also heavily involved in dealing with the NHS cyber-attacks over the last weekend, and many believe he is being lined up replace Mr Hunt.

Explaining how mergers benefit patients 

Two foundation trusts whose merger was blocked by competition regulators in a landmark decision are planning to ask for restrictions to be removed or revised.

Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital foundation trusts are trying to persuade the Competition and Markets Authority to open the door to a second attempt at merger by outlining the benefits for patients.

In 2013 the CMA blocked a merger between the trusts, ruling it would have led to a substantial lessening of competition, which would not have been outweighed by other benefits. But in September the two trusts reopened merger talks because they believe planned changes to acute services in east Dorset “could be achieved more easily under one management structure”. 

However, undertakings signed in December 2013 mean they cannot attempt to merge for ten years, unless the CMA gives written consent.

Making the case for better care is clearly seen as the best way to convince the regulator. In another application to the CMA, two teaching trusts in Manchester have submitted a 118-page document to the CMA outlining what they believe to be the patient benefits.

Longest serving CEO faces disciplinary hearing

In case you missed it amid all the coverage of the Tory manifesto yesterday, HSJ revealed that one of the NHS’s most high profile chief executives faces a disciplinary hearing next week.

Sir Leonard Fenwick, CEO of the “outstanding”-rated Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust and the longest serving trust chief in England, has been on “extended leave” all year.

HSJ previously revealed he had been accused of bullying - although the exact subject of the 23 May hearing is not yet known. An investigation into “serious issues” at the trust is understood to have been completed, and has been passed to trust chair Kingsley Smith.